Friday, April 25, 2014

Family Dinner

I wish I had a photograph, or better yet, a video clip of our dinners at the kitchen table growing up with 7 people.

This table, at best, measured 4.5 x 3 feet. It had four chairs, one at each of the heads, and 2 on the open side.  The wall side had a bench, custom made by my grandfather.

Being one of the more neurotic, or "OCD" members, I insisted on sitting in the same spot, every night.  This was on the open side, next to my mother.  Despite this being a well-known fact amongst the family, nearly every night, someone attempted to sit in this seat (usually Brennan), thus opening the meal with an argument.  Not surprisingly, I always won the spot.

No one ever tried to sit in our parent's spots.

Eventually, we all got settled.  Poor, middle-child, peacemaker Leah on the bench, separating the 2 boys.  Always in the role of referee, and despite, obviously occupying THE WORST seating assignment, always willing to do so, without complaint.

Annora sat to my right.  Due to the dimensions of this table, she would frequently get upset and frustrated with me "elbowing" her as we ate.  I'm right handed!  Sometimes your elbow has to jut out to cut the food or load the spoon.  Or, sometimes, I would purposefully stick my elbow out as far as it would go.  Sometimes this would aggravate her to the point of leaving the table. Mission accomplished. Or, I mean, sorry?

My father would always wait for us all to fill our plates, before he served himself.  Sometimes, if the quantity of food appeared questionable (which was extremely rare) he would wait for us all to have our seconds.  In this case, he could usually rely on Brennan to over serve himself quite generously, and would have a full portion in the form of Brennan's leftovers.  For some reason, my mother's mantra "You can always get more" never registered with that boy.  Worst case, my father ended up with a bag of potato chips and beer for dinner.  I don't know, maybe that was his "best case" and motive all along.

My mother would never get her own glass of water.  Being seated nearest her, and being the cleaner option (over Timothy) she would just drink mine.  Really, most of us didn't get a drink.  We would all sit, patiently waiting, eyeing our siblings, hoping someone else would give in first.  Inevitably, Annora or I would do it, and then the requests come pouring in (pun intended), "While you're up..."  Ugh!  7 glasses of water later, I'm seated again to eat.

My youngest brother harbored the least diverse palate of us all.  If my mom happened to prepare any green vegetables for dinner, we had guaranteed dinner time entertainment and drama.  Well, drama was always a guarantee.

I remember one, specific incident with broccoli.  Timothy was not allowed up from the table until he ate one, single bite.  We had all finished, were up playing, watching TV.  Every so often I'd walk back through the kitchen and find him still sitting, alone, on that bench, with the broccoli on his plate.  I remember coaxing him to do it.  Reassuring him he will not die.  He finally put that bite in his mouth, by this time, most of us were back in the kitchen to witness the mastication. Or is the word massacre?  Because you probably couldn't tell the difference. He screamed, cried, threw his head back, hit it on the wall, cried some more, drooled.  I laughed.  We all laughed.  He got up from the table.

For all 7 of us to remain seated for the entirety of the meal rivaled the lunar eclipse in frequency.  Whether the departure was optional or forced, it was usually done so with tears, laughter, and one or more family members.  Annora and Brennan being the most frequent offenders, Annora leaving in anger, Brennan being expelled.  He thought it funny to belch or fart REALLY loud at the table...the bench providing a lot of amplification.  My parents didn't share his humor.

The phone, which hung on the wall in the pantry, could ring, but under no circumstances could be answered during dinner.

The dogs were not to be fed.  Supposedly.  Everyone still did it.  Including mom and dad.  In fact, they were the worst.

Technically, to get up, you were to ask, "May I please be excused."

I liked to linger.  My father and I were usually the last to leave.  Maybe it's because, we were both still secretly hungry.  Maybe it's because we enjoyed the quiet moment before the bedtime routine.

The number of people, table size, arrangement and frequency of these dinners has changed over the years.  The mood, ambiance, atmosphere has not.  Likely never will.

Monday, April 14, 2014

At this exact moment...

...I need to study for boards. Finish 2 patient notes.  Finish application paperwork. Send an email with my vaccinations. Get a TB test. Do the dishes. Do kid laundry. Do house laundry. Do my own laundry. Order diapers. Figure out Easter outfits. Study for boards. Find an ATLS course. Sign up for the pool. Sign kids up for swim lessons. Figure out who is going to watch my kids while my husband is gone. Take a shower. Type, print and hand out a survey. Do a dozen or so resident evaluations. Log procedures. Study for boards. Get a haircut. Get the kid's haircut. Be less stressed. Be nicer. Go to the grocery store. Clean up cat vomit. Defer my loans. Pick up this room. Trade a shift. Fill out my schedule. Finish a research project. Study for boards. Call back patients. Speak to my husband for more than 30 seconds. Drink some water. Drink some wine.

All of this.  Should be done right now.  I shouldn't put it off even one more minute.

But I'm going to bed.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Brother's O'Laughlin

The thing about chaos, is that while 
it disturbs us, it too, forces 
our hearts to roar in a way we
secretly find magnificent.
                                -Christopher Poindexter

Growing up, we affectionately referred to our home and family as "the Smith Zoo".  When I was in college, my many team mates looked forward to meeting the members, to see what all the ruckus was about.  When my entire family piled into a rented minivan to take a road trip to Austin, TX to watch me compete as a freshman in NCAA's, the scene did not disappoint.  As luck would have it, the Smith clan arrived at the hotel just as the Hoosier swimmers were returning from warm ups, the night before the meet was to begin.  The first person to stumble, and I literally mean stumble, out of the van was my youngest brother, Timothy.  His entire right leg, some of his shirt and foot covered in a chocolate milkshake. My sister, Leah, soon after him, shaking her hand as she had just touched some of said, spilt milkshake.  The whole family was obviously annoyed with one another, and ready for a break.  My team mates watched, waved and laughed at the scene.  The sight only confirmed the picture I had painted with my many stories and descriptions.

Everyday, something comical happens in my new family.  I have never smiled so much in my life.  Everyday something frustrating happens.  Something disgusting.  Something maddening.  Something exciting.  Something adorable.  Oh, so very adorable.  Something tragic.  Something magic. Something nerve-wrecking.  Something inspiring.  Something hilarious.  Something aggravating.  Something beautiful.  Something sad.  Something stressful.  Something enlightening. A friend with twin toddlers said it perfectly, "I hate them and love them in extremes every day, many times a day."  In one instance, a few of them are purposefully kicking one another, crying, screeching, being so horribly loud.  In the next, they have decided to build a roadway, and the three of them are lying on the floor, cheeks against the ground, quietly pushing their motor vehicles along the tracks.

Brock springs out of his seat at the mention of going somewhere, such as the store, insisting we leave his brother's home.  Moments later, while on a walk, I threaten to ditch his trailing brother, and head back home without him.  Brock cries, is genuinely worried, and will not leave his brother behind.  Curtis decided to be potty-trained the other day.  This is glorious.  He has also decided he needs zero assistance. Ever.  This is disastrous.  One word.  Poop.  If George doesn't get his point across with his one, made up word.  He just repeats it, LOUDER.  And boxes you out to corral you to wherever he needs you.  This habit is both highly irritating, and utterly entertaining.  I laugh, all the time...he takes this as encouragement.  It's not.  Mitch can crawl. Sort of. He adorably attempts to find me throughout the house, and when he does, he tries to gnaw on my toes.  I cannot make eye contact with him, or he expects to be held.  I don't know where he got this idea.  Maybe it's because I'd be happy to oblige, and he knows it, but there are usually 3 other things to attend to at any given moment.  And by "things"  I mean Brock, Curtis and/or George.
This crew is absolutely not what I had ever envisioned, yet is everything I had ever hoped for in a family.  I could never wish for anything different.  I look forward to everyday with these naive, free spirits.  Each little boy is an amazing and perfect little human.  I feel honored, and simply happy, to care for them with Matt as my partner, every day.  They are a team, these brother's O'Laughlin.  I hope they will look back on their chaotic, zoo of a childhood with the same fondness I look upon mine.  Though, I'm never sure my "childhood" is over...I believe my siblings and I continue to create silly, crazy, asinine memories.  So, I hope they look forward to a lifetime of hilarity and chaos.  I know I do, and though he might deny it, Matt does as well.  Even now, as I finish writing this, because it's after 11pm, and Mitch has decided to angrily wake up,  I am both annoyed to hear him cry, yet secretly happy I get to cuddle with him, once more, right before bed.  I can never get enough of that perfect baby skin, smell, hair, newness, quiet.
I can never get enough of my boys.  The Brother's O'Laughlin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Side By Side

The Six Month Specs.
            Brock:   27.75in    17lbs 10ozs
            Curtis:   27.50in    18lbs 15ozs
            George: 27.50in    18lbs 4ozs
            Mitch:   27.75in    20lbs 14ozs

Need I say more?  Mitch is huge.  He is finally on the charts, 91st percentile for weight and 95th for height. Mitch is happy. Content.  Loves to play on his own.  He rolls and drags himself around the nursery, going toy to toy, merrily playing.  He gets nervous when around his brothers, rightfully so, and is much more inclined to cry or shriek when one of the three of them get near.  He is a loner.  And a momma's boy. 

I abusively kiss him.  I wish he would cuddle more, but he prefers to fall asleep on his own.  I clench my teeth when I see him.  I cannot help but repeat "you are so cute" no less than 77 times while in his presence.  His pleading eyes as he stands in the Exersaucer, asking me to pick him up.  The way he smiles and buries his head when we lock eyes.  His growling.  I mean, legitimate growling.  He thinks he is a tiger, or a dinosaur, or a monster or something.  All along, Matt and I have felt he had an exceptionally deep voice, the growling is no different. I joke that he has "Giganticism" because of his slow deliberate movements, large size (especially hands) and deep voice.  But this thought was dispelled last night when he suddenly grabbed a handful of refried beans off my plate with lightening-like speed.  His perfectly formed eyebrows.  His gruff giggle, and ticklish ribs, chin, feet, armpits, thighs, belly, I mean, probably even earlobes and eyelids, the kid is ticklish! His quiet, observant nature.  His distractability (which is going to make me quit nursing!)  His toothless grin.  His lack of interest in baby food, and love of Zwieback toast. The way he progresses from shrieking to growling to blowing slobbery raspberries when fighting sleep.  The way his look has not changed, not even a bit, from the day he was born.

This is what I will remember about 6 month old Mitch.  The images I will try to hold on to, forever.  I love him, and look forward to the next 6 months.  Years.  Decades?